An Excuse to Stay

By Holly Fleming

Annie wanted to fall in love and have her happy ever after.

Annie wanted to find a good guy with a dad bod and a scruffy beard. She wanted a teddy bear beau to take care of her. She wanted to be held in the cold months and to go out on his arm in the hot months. She wanted someone to go out for romantic, intimate dinners with and to go home with after.

Annie knew what she wanted, but she didn’t know how to get it.

Every Saturday night, Annie would team up with a couple of her single girlfriends. She and her companions would share wine while they got dressed up, decorating their eyelids with sparkles and smokes and their lips with reds and nudes. They slipped into little dresses and big heels and strutted out to town, to whatever club looked to have the best vibe that night, and Annie began her hunt. 

She spied the talent from the bar. There were obviously attractive men, with gelled hair and tight muscle shirts. She knew the type. She wasn’t interested. Well, she wasn’t interested mentally. Her tipsy body leaned towards these boys but the sober voice in her head told her, “stay.” She sipped at her gin instead.

With a fresh drink, she prowled the dancefloor. She stalked into the throng of sweating and booze-soaked bodies and started to pursue her dream guy.

She did this every week, and every week, she found her dream guy. She went home with him every time.

One week he was a Conor, one week he was a Stephen. In the biblical sense, she knew a Ryan, a Matt, and a Gary too. She always left the club on a different guy’s arm and in the taxi home, looked into their eyes with the hope of new romance, and went back to his. Every time they had, at best, mediocre drunk sex and slept together in awkward, sweaty cuddles. Annie always woke up completely separate from her man of the evening but would make her way back to him.

She would worm her way under his arm and onto his chest, snuggling into whichever man she was with and wait for him to wake. It always went the same way when he awoke. 

He had to go see his parents. He had to work. He had class. There was always something that would force her to get her clothes back on, put on what makeup she had, brush her hair with her fingers and be out the door, often in a foreign, strange place. Once, she woke up in Thornliebank. Lost, she asked a local, where am I? He told her Thornliebank. “Where?!” she gasped, completely clueless. It took her over an hour to get home. 

Annie’s plan to find love had to be modified. She had to form a deeper bond than the physical one formed in drunken sex. She needed a mental attachment. She knew she hadn’t the capacity to form that bond when she was steaming, so it had to be done in the morning. She had to think of some excuse to stay in whoever’s house to do it.

She “lost” her purse. An Adam was trying to rush her out of his door when she “coincidentally” realised that her clutch was a little too light. “I think I might have dropped something,” she admitted as he was trying to open the door. She stopped in her tracks, opened her clutch and, lo and behold, her purse was not there. She knew exactly where it was. She kept her eyes off the couch where she knew it hid. “I can’t leave without it! It’s got all my money in it.”

This did not fit in with Adam’s plans. He had a Tinder date in a few hours. He did not hide the irritation this inconvenience caused him. “Come on, let’s have a look,” he almost growled. 

He was a wall. He either ignored Annie’s questions and attempts at bonding, or gave her cold, one-word answers. She felt him boil under his skin as they kept looking. This, Annie decided, was a failure. She emerged from the bathroom in which she was “looking” for her purse and made a beeline for the couch. With one swift movement, she pulled it out from under the cushion and said monotonously, “Got it.” She left without saying goodbye. 

Even though Adam was so brash, she decided that her plan could work in better circumstances. She was persistent and hungry for love, so she was back in action the next Sunday morning.

The next guy, Beck, was far too hungover to deal with Annie’s lost keys. She was being escorted out of his student flat (two of his flatmates were playing Fifa on their shared couch) when she revealed that she didn’t have her house keys on her. Beck, whose face was ashen, couldn’t take it. “A am waaaaaaaaay too fucked fir this,” he told her. “Am gonnae whitey.”

Annie didn’t know how to respond. Beck revealed that he did not have one charming bone in his body when he said, “Am away back tae bed, you have a look. Door’s there when ye find the keys.”

She chortled at what had to be a joke, but then he was spinning on his heels and retreating to his smelly bedroom.

One of the boys playing Fifa rose immediately. “I’ll help you have a look.” Annie looked him up and down. God height but too skinny. She didn’t like glasses  or boys who played Fifa. He wouldn’t do. “That’s okay,” she said thanklessly as she stuck her hand behind the unit by the door. She pulled her keys up and said, “Got ‘em,” as she slammed the door shut behind her. 

Craig was next. Craig. Annie didn’t like that name very much. The way it sounded was so bleh to her. Craig. She thought he said Crane in the club, a name she considered to be much cooler. As they sloppily kissed and pressed their spilt-drink covered bodies against each other, she imagined being under his arm, holding onto his waist and saying, “this is my boyfriend, Crane.”

He was for sure tall enough for her. From groping and caressing him as they kissed she could feel that he wasn’t a gym rat either. No, he was a little pudgy in his sides. Annie relished the way his body felt. He was just her type.

Shame, though, that conversation was dire. There wasn’t much in the club – they were drunk and under the blaring beats, their voices were drowned out anyway. The night air sobered the new couple somewhat and in the taxi, she started asking questions.

“What do you do?” Annie asked with a flutter of her eyelashes.

“Student,” he said.

Silence.

“Where are you from?”

“Glasgow.”

Silence.

“What do you like to do?”

“Smoke.”

Silence.

When they got back to his flat, he confirmed that he liked a smoke: he lit up a blunt, but Annie could smell grass before they even got into his place. She could tell from the contents of his room, too, that he was a total stoner – a waster. There was a copy of Pineapple Express lying near his little TV and its case was god knows where. The table by his couch was covered in crisp packets and chocolate wrappers. There were grinders everywhere. Annie hated the type. This, she decided, was an abject failure. Still, she was here. She may as well get something out of meeting Crane.

“You smoke?” he asked her, extending his arm and the blunt to her. Smoke wafted out of his parted lips, lingered in the air.

She took the blunt. “Yeah,” she said and inhaled deeply. Annie hated stoners, yeah, but there was nothing wrong with having a little smoke to get the creative juices flowing or to act as a social lubricant. She liked a little smoke; this Crane fella liked a smoke far too much. It was good green, at least, she thought upon exhaling.

Annie decided to keep all of her belongings on her that night but still kissed Crane after ten minutes of dry, boring conversation. She was on his lap, tops were off, and he took her to his bedroom. He surprised Annie. Pleasantly. She was the little spoon after. She slept soundly.

Crane made no attempt to rush her off but she was getting dressed as he was still half asleep. He was rising to unlock his door for her when she double checked her clutch to make sure she had everything.

“Shit,” she gasped, not meaning to be loud enough for Crane to hear.

“What is it?” he asked.

This wasn’t good. “I’ve lost my phone,” she told him. She meant it. 

“Oh, shit is right. Let’s look.”

Surprisingly, Crane was the one to make conversation with her now. He asked questions and responded to her answers, probing further about her. This was not the same guy she had known last night. 

It was during their conversation that Annie learned that he was Craig, not Crane. His name had lost him some of the points he’d been earning. Though, he gained some back when he displayed genuine interest in her. 

Conversation led Annie to ask him, “What’s your usual type?”

Craig pondered a second, then said, “Physically? Petite. Pretty face. Practically you, to be honest.”

Annie felt her cheeks flush. “That’s sweet. You’re kinda my type as well.” She hastened to add, “physically.” She still wasn’t completely sure about him but was coming round.

A kind of awkward but sweet shy silence filled the room. “What are you looking for?” Annie ventured to ask.

“Your phone,” he answered earnestly.

She looked at him with an exasperated smirk. “Romantically, I mean.”

With a heavy sigh, Craig fell onto his couch and said, “I know I’m young, but I want to settle down. Find someone to love. My friends keep saying pulling girls in clubs won’t get me anywhere but, I don’t know. Plenty of people find love like that, why not me? You get me?”

Annie really did get him. “I do,” she said with her hand over her heard, smiling broadly. “My friends say the same.”

“You’re looking for love?” Craig guessed hopefully.

Annie stepped over the rubbish on the floor and joined him on the couch, sitting close to him. “I am,” she admitted. “Maybe you and I should get a coffee together.”

“Yeah, maybe,” he said. 

They made plans and continued the search for Annie’s phone. It was hidden under a pile of crisp packets. Craig typed his number into it and she left him, heading home for a shower and to make herself pretty. Only two hours after she left his flat, she was meeting him again for coffee. They both looked worlds fresher than they did that morning  but certainly needed the coffee.

The pair chatted about studying and their families, their favourite restaurants and their most loved movies. They realised quickly that they had very little in common. Here and there they agreed and found shared interests, but more often than not they couldn’t quite understand each other. They laughed together, though, and conversation flowed somewhat seamlessly. 

A second date was arranged – a proper one: they’d dress up for dinner and drinks and they said to each other with sly smiles, “We’ll have to see what happens, hm?” 

Annie wasn’t sure that Craig was her happily ever after, but she was happy that he hadn’t rushed her out of his flat. He had given her a chance, and now she was doing the same. Maybe they would be soulmates, Annie thought, but it wasn’t such a pressing matter. As she walked to get her train, she thought about what she’d wear on their date. Now that was a pressing matter.

Writer from East Kilbride currently studying journalism and creative writing at the University of Strathclyde, dabbling in poetry while working on a collection of short stories. Used to write horror only but now has taken an interest in the weird and the sometimes kind of funny, and also the romantic. Likes to tell stories all the time to anyone who will listen about anything, be it the person who held the door open in the pub earlier or most recent travels. Mostly likes to keep stories tethered in the realm of fiction, though.


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